With many tenants being forced to get rid of their pets under current rules from their landlords, the government is planning to change the model tenancy agreement, which can be used as the basis of lease agreements made with tenants.
The government's model tenancy contracts will be revised to remove restrictions on pets to make it easier for rentals to bring well-behaved animals into their properties.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick last month called on landlords to make it easier for responsible pet owners to allow animals to live in their homes.
Jenrick said: “Pets bring a huge amount of joy and comfort to people’s lives, helping their owners through difficult times and improving their mental and physical wellbeing.
“It’s a shame thousands of animal-loving tenants and their children can’t experience this because they rent their homes instead of owning.
“So, I’m overhauling our model tenancy contract.”
But government measures calling for landlords to make it easier for responsible tenants to have well-behaved pets in their homes could result in animal lovers falling foul of the law and landlords ending up out of pocket, according to a property litigation firm.
Hägen Wolf says that as the contract is not mandatory, the announcement has no basis in law and landlords can refuse tenants permission for pets.
Matt Pugh, the managing partner of new property litigation firm Hägen Wolf, based in Leeds, said: "Private landlords have the right to choose who they want in their property and to accept pets or not.
“Any moves to force landlords to take pets will only make them more likely to exit the property market thereby making the problem worse by reducing the number of suitable properties available to individuals, couples and families with pets.”
The government’s decision to cap tenant deposits at five weeks has also deterred many landlords from accepting tenants with pets, according to Pugh.
He continued: “It [the cap of tenant deposits] has resulted in many landlords flatly refusing to accept pet-owning tenants as the amount does not cover damage caused by their animals, leading to an uncertain future for many pets.
“Blocks of flats also often have restrictions on accepting pets, which would make any implementation of this kind of law very difficult."
Under the proposed changes it could also become harder for pet owners to find suitable accommodation, as property landlords and letting agents could previously ask for a higher deposit to cover any damage.
Pugh also points out that there are insurance policies pet owners can buy to give landlords greater peace of mind, so if the pet does cause damage, it will be put right by the tenants.
He added: “As with all residential tenancies, a fair middle ground between the needs of both landlord and tenant needs to be reached, something this announcement, while being a step in the right direction, doesn't quite do.
"Tenants need to check with their landlords if they are allowed to have pets or if this is something that would be considered in future given certain assurances.
“Property owners need to be clear with tenants from the start on their policy on pet ownership in their properties and reach a mutual agreement which doesn't contravene the conditions of the tenancy or leave them out of pocket due to animals damaging the property.”
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